Centenary events to remember all who died ‘irrespective of uniform’, says Taoiseach

Micheál Martin warns against use of history to fuel ‘intolerant nationalism’

 Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Minister for  Culture Catherine Martin and Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar  launch the Decade of Centenaries 2021 programme at National Museum of Ireland, Collins Barracks, Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Minister for Culture Catherine Martin and Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar launch the Decade of Centenaries 2021 programme at National Museum of Ireland, Collins Barracks, Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

 

The forthcoming programme for the Decade of Centenaries will remember everybody who died in the Irish Revolution “irrespective of uniform”, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said.

Mr Martin gave a strong defence of the Government’s programme of commemorations and he said it would be not deflected by the controversy over the abandoned Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) event in January last year.

Speaking at the launch of the latest phase of the Government programme for the final years of Decade of Centenaries, Mr Martin said it will be a “broad based programme that is collective and respects the loss of human life on all sides”

He stated the goal was, to quote Dr Maurice Manning, “a nation at ease with its own history”.

The Government is hoping to host a State commemoration to mark the centenary of the Truce which ended the War of Independence on July 11th, 1921.

The Expert Advisory Group on Commemorations recommended that the State only hold one event to mark the War of Independence and this would be around the centenary of the Truce.

Mr Martin said the use of history to promote “intolerant nationalism” was “resurgent” across the world and must be resisted in Ireland.

His own experience as a historian before entering politics showed that much of what we thought we knew about Irish history was “inadequate” and too focused on major individuals.

He said in terms of Northern Ireland there was different perspectives and the focus should be on those minorities left on the wrong side of the Border after partition.

He hoped that the history of southern unionists should be better studied in the coming years.

He was speaking as the Government announced a major new capital project and permanent exhibitions covering the years of the decade of centenaries for the coming years.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the story of the State was one inspired by “optimism and self-confidence” which showed that a small country could defeat imperialism.

The Irish story had been an inspirational one to countries like India.

He suggested the early State had not fulfilled all the promises of the time, but it was as “critical and courageous start”.

He also stated that those on both sides of the Treaty were patriots who worked to a common end to create a republic and eventually did in 1948.

Regarding the RIC commemoration which was abandoned last year, Mr Varadkar said “we can get it right” in terms of commemoration.

Minister for Culture Catherine Martin said she hoped that a public event might be held depending on the situation nationally with Covid-19.

Ms Martin said there would be a new strand remembering the involvement of women in the Decade of Centenaries.

“I want one of these legacies to be a greater understanding of and appreciation for the role that women played in shaping the narrative of this revolutionary period,” she said.

“Women were not just background figures supporting some of the more well-known people of this time, but influenced events in their own right as revolutionaries, politicians, thinkers, humanitarians, law-makers, campaigners, strategists, soldiers, administrators and disruptors.”

New events announced for the decade of centenaries include:

* The Virtual Record Treasury of Ireland online will be launched in June next year. Many millions of words from destroyed documents will be linked and reassembled from copies, transcripts and other records scattered among the collections both in Britain and Ireland.

* The 20th Century History of Ireland galleries will be permanently located at the Museum of Decorative Arts and History at Collins Barracks and will coincide with the centenary commemorations to mark the foundation of the Irish Free State. The exhibition will open in 2023 and will cover the years from 1912 - 1923.

* There will also be two new exhibitions curated by the National Museum and the National Archives to mark the centenary of the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty. They are due to open in November and December 2021 respectively.

* The National Museum’s exhibition, ‘Studio and State: The Laverys and the Anglo Irish Treaty’ exhibition will be curated in collaboration with The Hugh Lane Gallery.

*The National Archives is curating a significant exhibition to commemorate the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty on December 6th 1921.

* Mná 100 A new dedicated resource to highlight the role of women in the period 1921 to 1923 is being launched by the Department in May 2021. This project involves collaborative initiatives highlighting women’s participation in political, military, professional and domestic roles during this period.